A Manatee County Circuit Court judge dismissed without prejudice a lawsuit filed against the School Board of Manatee County, former Superintendent Rick Mills and former investigator for the school board Troy Pumphrey by former Manatee High School football coach Joe Kinnan.
Judge Brian Iten issued his written order Thursday morning, after a hearing on Tuesday.
Kinnan filed his lawsuit in September, alleging a total of nine counts of slander, breach of contract and conspiracy involving Mills, Pumphrey, certain district administrators and school board members.
Iten’s ruling allows Kinnan’s lawyers to refile the suit within 30 days.
Corey Friedman, Kinnan’s lawyer, said he would be filing an amended complaint within 30 days. He said the judge’s decision did not take him by surprise.
“I’m not really surprised. Typically when a lawsuit is filed, in over 90 percent of cases, the first step is the defense will file a motion to dismiss,” Friedman said. “It is very, very clear from the order that it is without prejudice, so we will amend the case and file an amended complaint.”
Iten’s ruling stated that Kinnan alleged Pumphrey and Mills both acted with malice and outside the scope of their authority. State statute provides immunity to political subdivisions in either case, so while the two former employees could be liable for their actions, the school board cannot be.
On Tuesday, school board general counsel Mitch Teitelbaum and Erin Jackson, a lawyer for the school district, had also argued to Iten that the 84-page complaint was too broad and did not make a concise claim.
“It was overbroad. Pleas are supposed to be precise and to the point,” Teitelbaum said. “It was like a shotgun approach, to the point where you couldn’t tell where it begins and where it ends.”
In his order, Iten noted the length of the complaint. He said the superfluous information was not his reason for dismissing, but he also listed several instances where the plaintiffs used “improper editorialization.”
Reached Thursday morning, Mills declined to comment on the ruling. Kinnan declined to comment, referring all questions to his lawyer.